The North Face called out for ‘virtue signaling’
The North Face is being accused of being hypocritical for refusing a jacket order from a Texas-based oil and gas company because the brand’s business significantly relies on fossil fuels.
The incident gained attention because Adam Anderson, CEO of the Houston-based Innovex Downhole Solutions, penned an open letter on LinkedIn to Steve Rendle, CEO of VF Corp., The North Face’s parent, that has gone viral among the oil and gas industry’s supporters.
Innovex had intended to gift The North Face jackets, customized with the Innovex logo, to employees as Christmas gifts. Mr. Anderson said the company was informed by The North Face that it doesn’t want to support the oil and gas industry, in the same way they don’t want to be associated with alcohol, tobacco and adult entertainment businesses.
“They told us we did not meet their brand standards,” Mr. Anderson told CBS7 in Odessa, TX. “We were separately informed that what that really meant is was that we were an oil and gas company.”
In his open letter, he argued that oil and gas has enabled a quality of life “unfathomable only a century ago” and insisted climate change activists are over-estimating the threat of hydrocarbons. He called The North Face’s decision not to sell to Innovex “ironic” and “counterproductive virtue signaling” because The North Face jackets are made from petroleum products, and activities such as ski and canoeing, promoted by The North Face, often require travel supported by fossil fuels.
The North Face didn’t respond directly to the case, but in a statement to the Financial Times said it “thoroughly investigates product requests to ensure they align closely with our goals and commitments surrounding sustainability and environmental protection.”
“Support the preservation of the outdoors” has long been part of The North Face’s mission statement, and the brand has been more assertive in recent years in taking actions against climate change.
On VF’s second quarter call in mid-October, Mr. Rendle noted that over two-thirds of Millennials and Gen-Zers have changed their purchasing habits due to climate change. He added that VF’s overall commitment to combating climate change is the backbone of its “purpose-led positioning.”
- Virtues Of Low Cost and Reliable Energy – Innovex
- The North Face refuses Texas oil and gas company’s Christmas gift order – CBS7
- Oil boss criticises fleece-maker North Face for ‘virtue signalling’ – Financial Times
- About Us – The North Face
- VF Corp (VFC) Q2 2021 Earnings Call Transcript – Motley Fool
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is The North Face is being hypocritical or guilty of “green washing” in declining to fill an order from an oil and gas enterprise? For a brand such as The North Face, is taking such stances any more or less important than five or ten years ago?